Redskins players back coach Shanahan

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Photo - Susan Walsh/AP
Now midway through his third season in Washington, Mike Shanahan has compiled a 14-27 record with the Redskins.
Susan Walsh/AP Now midway through his third season in Washington, Mike Shanahan has compiled a 14-27 record with the Redskins.
Sports,NFL,Redskins,John Keim

ASHBURN -- The players said they didn't need to hear any message. Nor did they need a clarification, just in case they didn't know what Mike Shanahan wanted accomplished. Or in case they didn't know he wasn't quitting on the season.

What they're more interested in than rehashing words that the coach said were misinterpreted is figuring out a way to turn around their season. As the Redskins players prepared for five days off, they defended their coach and expressed optimism that the season wasn't lost. A 3-6 record suggests they'd better find it in a hurry.

The first order for Shanahan, though, was making sure his players knew what he meant in his postgame comments. To refresh: Shanahan said after the 21-13 loss to Carolina that now "you're playing to see who obviously is going to be on your team for years to come. ... Now we have a chance to evaluate and see where we're at."

To some that sounded like a white flag had been raised on the season. Shanahan stressed in his news conference Monday that this was not the case. And he hammered it home with his players Tuesday.

"He was not very pleased the way it got handled in the media," Redskins tight end Chris Cooley said. "And he was very clear to us about that. We get that. We understand that. It's happened to all of us."

Redskins linebacker London Fletcher said: "There was no gray area. He let us know exactly how he feels about the season and the guys in the locker room. There's no divide or anything like that. We understand at 3-6 we've built ourselves a tough path, but we can still win a few more games and get back in this thing."

The Redskins are 14-27 under Shanahan -- they were 13-19 in the previous two years before he arrived. They did not start a total rebuild until after his first season, but other NFL teams have restocked faster.

"If you were here before he got here, you definitely notice a culture change," Fletcher said. "And you notice a talent change."

But to prove that, the record must change, too. Both Cooley and Fletcher played on Redskins teams in the past that made the playoffs with late hot streaks. Cooley played on the 2005 and 2007 teams that were 5-6 and 5-7, respectively, before reaching the postseason. Fletcher played on the 2007 team.

"It's hard to continue to understand that you're a very good team when you lose three in a row," Cooley said, "so it's about turning it around with one win and going from there. That's how we did it [before]. ... It's a young team and I feel a very hungry team. There's absolutely a chance we can win three or four like the years when we made the playoffs."

The playoffs remain a longshot. Only three teams since 1990 have made the playoffs after a 3-6 record. Finishing strong, though, is a must.

"This team has a lot of resiliency," Redskins left tackle Trent Williams said. "We have the capabilities to do what we set out to do. Are we going to get it done?"

And they say they're still confident in Shanahan.

"He's our coach. If you don't buy in, why are you here?" Redskins defensive end Kedric Golston said. "You're only hurting yourself and the rest of the team. ... Coach Shanahan wants to win games. It's not like he's trying to sabotage the season."

jkeim@washingtonexaminer.com

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John Keim

Staff Reporter - Washington Redskins
The Washington Examiner